Watch the Collapsible Bo Staff in Action!

Improvised Weapons: What You Can Learn From Jason Bourne - Survival Series Part Two

Nearly every weapon in the martial arts began as some kind of everyday item, from which a more lethal version was created. The same understanding that went into making an improvised weapon from farm equipment can be applied to nearly any modern-day scenario in which you may find yourself defending against an attacker.

It is the goal of this article to show you (by example of that improvisational weapon artiste, Jason Bourne) how the items you carry everyday can be looked to as weapons should you ever find yourself in the nightmare scenario of actually needing them. Continue reading to find out what all you ever wanted to know about improvised weapons.

What did some of the popular martial arts weapons begin as?

Tonfa - The tonfa is a baton-like weapon that has formed the basis for police nightsticks, is an ancient weapon that is believed to have actually originated from the wooden handle of a millstone.

Bo - Due to the fact that sticks of various lengths can be found almost anywhere, it's no surprise that nearly every country has some sort of staff like weapon and a style associated with it. Whether the staff came from an actual farm-work implement (such as a tool for carrying buckets) or was simply plucked from the ground or a tree, the wooden Bo-staff was one of the first and most abundant of improvised weaponry.

Kama - It's no accident that these deadly weapons look exactly like sickles. That's what they began as. Also originating during times in which common-folk were banned from having weapons, these farm-tools-turned-weapons are perhaps the most obvious example of what weapons one can improvise from common agricultural equipment.

Nunchaku - While the history surrounding the nunchaku as an improvised weapon is vague, it is commonly believed that the nunchaku originated from the flail used to thresh rice after it was harvested.

As you can see, when it comes to finding weapons on the fly, humans can tend to get pretty darn creative. Of the various action movies that have come out in recent memory, none present a fresh spin on the idea of improvised weaponry better than The Bourne Trilogy. Comprised of The Bourne Identity (2002), The Bourne Supremacy (2004), and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), this series showed audiences not only a hero with a new, no-nonsense attack style, but also one that could take deceptively harmless items scattered around an apartment and defend himself to great effect.

It is these films that we will draw inspiration from as we take a closer look at valuable tips and techniques for defending oneself during an attack.

WARNING: The videos have been included simply as an entertaining way to convey some of the points discussed further in this article. In no way do these suggest that you should stay in a dangerous situation when escape is a possibility. Jason Bourne is a (fictional) trained super-assassin...you are not.

Bourne Identity: The Pen Is Mightier than the Fist

Bourne Supremacy: Never Bring a Knife to a Magazine Fight

Bourne Ultimatum: Don't Judge a Book by it's Cover

Some Krav Maga Inspired Points to Keep in Mind

Improvised Striking Weapons

These can be used to strike an assailant while maintaining a short distance between the two of you. Due to the size of these, they can also be capable of dealing some very effective damage if an attacker is struck in the correct places (see our Survival Series: Part One of this series for tips on where exactly to aim your strikes)

An Umbrella - Not something that's always handy (unless you live in Seattle) but still an object that many people carry and can turn into a weapon should the need arise.

A Can/Walking Stick - Also something that not many people will tend to carry. However, if you are someone that uses a can or walking stick to aid you, don't forget that it can also be employed to strike any assailants. Also, you may be interested in carrying something along the lines of a for an even deadlier weapon.

A Tree Branch - While this may be reserved for jogger's that find themselves needing to fend off an attacker, a tree branch can still be an effective bludgeoning weapon and could be just persuasion an attacker needs to end his assault.

Improvised Stabbing Objects

Remember your Bourne training here. If it's long and pointed, it's a potential weapon against an assailant. The following is a brief list of some of the everyday objects you can turn to your advantage should the need arise. Just remember to stick them with the pointy end and you're halfway there.


Common Handheld Objects as Weapons

These are some smaller, handheld objects that most of us have on our person at least once per day.

Coins - These can be a great distraction if hurled at the face of an attacker. They may only give you a second, but that second could be all you need for either a follow-up attack, or to make a quick run for it.

Keys - Another potential projectile weapon that can also double as a striking tool. For example, grip a set of keys, making a fist so that a key pokes out from in between your fingers. This 'spiked-fist' weapon mimics the same principles behind a self-defense weapon such as a ninja spiked key-chain.

Liquids/Sprays As Weapons

Liquids make excellent throwing weapons that can be very hard to defend against.

Hairspray - A shot in to the face could be enough to distract an attacker long enough to get away, especially if you're lucky enough to get it in his eyes.

Hot Coffee - Ever spill a little coffee on your leg and find yourself shocked at how magma-hot it feels? Now imagine what a face-full of that steaming hot beverage would feel like. Remember, surviving is about doing anything you can to make sure you get away.

Alcoholic Beverage - As if you needed another reason to ask for extra strong drinks when you're out at the bar. Along the same lines as the hairspray, this one is more for distraction purposes with an extra benefit should the attacker get this in his eyes.

Sand - Remember when we mentioned how anything goes when you're defending yourself? Well there's no shame in slinging a fistful of sand or mud into a muggers eyes if it means you'll have a chance to get away. After all, there are absolutely zero bonus points for fighting 'honorably' against an attacker.

Improvised Defensive Weapons

It can be so easy to become so focused on the offensive strategies of self-defense that one starts to overlook the potential of defensive weapons. Chances are pretty good that if and when anything goes down, you're going to be at the disadvantage anyway. Your attacker is going to have the initiative, which means your first actions will be focused on defending the attack. Keep the following items in mind and how each can be used as a defensive weapon first and an offensive weapon second.

Handbag/Purse - Being that most of handbags/purses out there are already bursting at the seams with (no doubt) essential items of the everyday woman, these can make an excellent deflecting object for a knife, or as a way to absorb the damage from a punch or kick.

Backpack - Same principle as the Handbag/Purse, only this time, there's more chance for the guys to have this one handy.

Shopping Bag - While there may be some ladies out there that would rather get mugged than put their shopping bags in harms way, for the rest there is great potential in using your recent purchases as a shield to fend off attacks.

Chair - An odd one yes, but if you're scrambling to find something, anything to place between you and your attacker, a chair (often lightweight and sturdy) is not the worst you could do.

Closing Points

If you're looking to find out more about these techniques and others, the best place to start would be looking into some Krav Maga Instructional Course DVDs or classes. This Israeli military self-defense system is focused on real world improvisation and quick, brutal striking focused on taking an attacker down at any cost.

Most of us are not given the luxury of knowing when or how an attacker will strike. Even fewer still are actually armed with some sort of self-defense weapon with which to fend off an attacker.

In the case that someone should ever find themselves weaponless during an attack, try to muster enough thought to remember the tips you have learned here. Who knows? One day, you may actually use them.

As always, feel free to comment on this or any other KarateMart.com article. Also, stay tuned next week for our Survival Series - Part Three: Situational Awareness.

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